Sunday, 15 December 2013

Game Review– Sonic & SEGA All Stars Racing.

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It’s been a while since I’ve done a little game review, and so here I thought I would go back a bit and get a crackalacking on one.  As a result, I have chosen Sonic and SEGA All Stars Racing as my review.  Why? Because I quite like it and would like to lead into Racing Transformed later on.  So away we go!

This game immediately gets compared to Mario Kart, which is fair enough.  Mario Kart Wii had been out for a while and I got it and enjoyed it.  It’s also quite obvious that SASAR is heavily influenced by Mario Kart.  AS a result, much of this will use Mario Kart as a comparison.

So how does this Sonic version of Mario Kart work then?  Well, what developers Sumo Digital have done is grab a bunch of SEGA characters, created some sort of vehicle for them and squished them into a racing game.  Sounds fair enough.  Each character is stuck to their specific vehicle, so Tails has a low flying Tornado plane car thing, Sonic has a car, Eggman has an Eggpod with big monster truck wheels, Shadow has a bike, etc. etc.
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Just to say though, not all characters could be classed as ‘all stars’ as such.  I mean they include Big the Cat…  Really?  Sure I like Big and all and don’t have anything against him, but they could’ve chosen some other character from the glorious history of SEGA.  That sort of issue does come to one of my main complaints, which is that there are too many Sonic The Hedgehog based characters (and tracks) in this game.  Add to that most of the Sonic based levels are from Sonic Heroes….  Hmmm.  However, they did manage to get a squeal of nerd-tastic joy from me when I unlocked (much to my surprise) Opa-Opa from Fantasy Zone.

Luckily despite there being too many Sonic based levels, the ones that are there are very cleverly designed with loops and jumps and all sorts of cool things.  Other games that are represented are House of the Dead, Billy Hatcher, Jet Set Radio, Monkeyball and Samba De Amigo.  All the tracks are rather fun and have a wide variety of obstacles that need to be avoided, I particularly like the Casino Zone based levels that have casino chips drop onto the track and Ocean Ruin with it’s underwater tunnels and loops.

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As one normally can in Kart racers, drifting around corners allows you to charge up a boost which can be released for a speed boost as well as use boost pads and grab weapons from item boxes at certain areas on each track.

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Track design is rather cleverly done and each track has a very different feel to another.  Monkey Ball based tracks have holes to fall through, lots of annoying sharp turns and rolling obstacles in the way.  House of the Dead tracks have Zombies on the track, as well as cameos from the bosses, Sonic levels have lots of rolling hills and Badniks.  Samba de Amigo levels are generally rather trippy affairs which should be experienced first hand.  Each character and vehicle does feel quite different to others as well, which is nice.  Hovercraft vehicles are annoyingly floaty and a bit tricky on corners, but aren’t slowed as much by track surfaces, bikes can do a wheelie boost but are pushed around easily and cards are a bit all-round vehicles.  Generally the tracks are quite wide which is handy as you end up rocketing along at high speed, much faster than Mario Kart.

The game runs very fast and it has a very SEGA racing car arcade game feel to it.  Which is good on one hand and bad on another.  While I love it as it provides a challenge for me and the speed works well with the Sonic theme, this very same part that I like makes it harder for your less experienced player to get into.  I loved it and it actually made me want to do the time Trials, which hasn’t really happened since my days of SEGA Rally on my Saturn.  It does have motion controls for steering as an option which is nice but even with that, it is still a bit hard for some people to handle the speed. 

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For example, my better half (BH) and I like a game of Mario Kart and the competition can be quite close as Kart will compensate those that cannot drift boost (BH) and still allow them to handle the corners well without the extra hassle of button pressing.  SASAR doesn’t have an option for this, so when BH and I get together for a game, it is a fore-gone conclusion that I will win as I can handle the corners easier with the addition of the boost.  So in a way the entry level for SASAR is quote a bit higher over Mario Kart.  A good and bad point at the same time.

The computer players are pretty well balanced and you generally don’t feel cheated.  Just be aware that weapons and power-ups are a big feature of the game and they can come hard and fast in some races.  They usually consist of the usual staples, homing missiles, mines, boxing gloves (unguided missiles), rolling bombs and many more.  As cool and funny as some of them are, very few of them are Sonic or SEGA related.  In fact the only ones that are, Speed shoe (turbo), Shield and perhaps the Confusing Star (Ristar?).  That makes 3 (probably 2) of nine weapons.

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Multiplayer is enjoyable and when it was in it’s prime was good fun.  Last time I was on, I did spend most of my time racing against bots and it took a while to find a match anyway.  There are a variety of modes as well.  Offline, one can play a 4 player split screen mode, with just a plain old race, or various challenge modes.  Such as Capture the Chao, Balloon burst and others.  These can be fun, as long as you are with an equally skilled opponent. 

On the downside though, there is a lack of options for setting up multiplayer.  Once again comparing to Mario Kart, I liked that I could automatically set a 4 track race, and have a random track selection set up.  SASAR allows for you to choose how many tracks you want to race on, but after each one you need to choose the next. 

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The graphics are pretty nice and while initially a little on the choppy side at first, after an update to the game data, they generally make it much smoother.  Each level looks spectacular as well and they all have fantastic themes, which makes it a real shame that they didn’t include a “watch replay” option once you’ve finished a race.  I find this a huge oversight as it would not only give you the opportunity to admire the level design and graphics, it’s rather cool to watch if you’ve had a particularly cool race. Each vehicle looks like it belongs to the character and the All-Star moves, which are given to the people at the rear of the pack look nice and keep in the characters theme, as well as having extra effects on others’.  For example, Ulala sings and dances and anyone nearby gets sucked into a dancing line, slowing them down and causing them to explode later.  Sonic changes to Super Sonic, Tails launches a tornado and Big lets Froggy loose and grabs on to his tail for a wild ride.

The Music is pretty solid and has themes relevant to the game that the level is inspired from.  Sonic levels have Sonic themes, House of the Dead from that and Jet Set Radio from that.  Most of them are taken straight from the original, which is nice, but there are also some not so wonderful ones too.  As you progress you will get a chance to buy more tunes from the SEGA shop (earned with gameplay points not real money) and can select which tune you would like to listen to when the intro is playing. 

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One aspect I LOVE is the announcer.  I know this is controversial as many people seemed to hate him, but I think he does a great job, adds atmosphere to the race and is well voiced and generally pretty fun.  After all that’s what the game is supposed to be.  He manages to comment on characters as well, often mentioning who and what happened, like if Tails’ got all-star item, he’ll mention that there’s and all-star on the track.  Plus if you don’t like him, you can turn him down. Poor guy.

One thing I am surprised they didn’t include is an install option.  The loading times are long and an installation option would have been wonderful.  Especially since the wait between races when doing a cup is a bit long if you’re in the zone. 

In the end though, Sonic and SEGA All-Stars Racing is a solid kart racing game.  It’s definitely created with an arcade feel to it which is great for those who are used to playing video games, but makes the entry level for those less skilled a bit higher and I think that is where it falls down a little.  We all knew that as soon as this game came out, people would immediately compare it to Mario Kart and as a result, I think that Sumo should have taken some cues from Mario Kart, just to enhance the presentation of the game.

As a result, it doesn’t exceed Mario Kart, but does provide a very solid challenge to the Kart King’s Krown.  Plus since Mario Kart is only on Nintendo consoles, I would say that Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing would be the best Kart racer on the PlayStation 3. 

Well until the sequel came along….


**NB all images in this post are stolen off the internet.**


Toy reviews…

Sonic and the Speed Star
Shadow and his Dark Rider.
Tails and the Tornado Racer.
Knuckles and the Landbreaker.
Mini 4 Pack
And some Gashapon things I got.

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